THE TAILOR KING by Anthony Arthur


The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptist Kingdom of MÅenster
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A well-researched and skillfully told account of the ill-fated 1534 uprising of the Anabaptists in MÅenster, Germany. In a period of unprecedented religious upheaval in Europe, the Anabaptists were persecuted mercilessly by both Catholic and Lutheran authorities. The pope and Martin Luther, otherwise sworn enemies, united in condemning the Anabaptists for believing that “infant baptism is meaningless” and only adult baptism brings salvation. Arthur (Deliverance at Los Banos, 1985) takes us inside the Anabaptist community in MÅenster, describing its growing paranoia and its apocalyptic worldview. Bernard Rothmann, a brilliant Anabaptist theologian, began the MÅenster takeover by asserting control over the city council. Rothmann and his rabid followers pillaged Catholic churches, intimidated “nonbelievers,” and passed legislation curbing Catholicism. Anabaptists flocked into the city from all over Europe. In February 1534, Jan Matthias, the leading Anabaptist prophet, arrived from Holland and expelled the city’s “nonbelievers.” Matthias established a strict theocracy inside the city walls, terrorizing anyone who dared oppose him. The Anabaptist seizure of MÅenster was nearly complete by the time the Catholic bishop decided to expel the foreign “heretics.” Within days, the bishop’s army surrounded MÅenster and began a year-long siege. After Matthias was killed fighting the bishop’s army, Jan van Leyden declared himself king of MÅenster. A former tailor, van Leyden began by executing anyone who spoke out against him. He legalized polygamy and seized private property for the city’s defenses. Meanwhile, disillusioned Anabaptists were escaping the starving, besieged city and working against King Jan. Henry Gresbeck, an Anabaptist carpenter, defected to the bishop and told him how to defeat MÅenster’s defenses. In June 1535, the bishop’s troops used this information to successfully assault the city and slaughter the Anabaptists. King Jan was captured, subjected to an Inquisition, and then beheaded. A useful case study in religious fanaticism and political totalitarianism. The many parallels that the author establishes between the MÅenster Anabaptists and Waco, Tex.’s Branch Davidians as charismatic cults are chilling.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-20515-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999


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